The Trump administration told a federal judge Wednesday that a legal challenge to an advisory commission’s request for sensitive data on voters from all 50 states could prevent the panel from investigating alleged voter fraud. Even as most states refuse to provide at least some of the data sought by the panel — including voters’ political affiliations and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers — the Justice Department argued that it is seeking only publicly available information. The lawsuit, filed Monday by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, asks the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block the request as an invasion of privacy. Not so, the government responded.
The reviews of President Trump’s new commission on election integrity are rolling in, and they’re not good. “Disingenuous.” “Repugnant.” “At best a waste of taxpayer money.” “A tool to commit large-scale voter suppression.” State officials across the country responded to the commission’s slapdash request last week for detailed voter data in the manner previously reserved for emailed pleas from a Nigerian prince. Delete, said secretaries of state in Kentucky, Minnesota, Tennessee, California — more than 20 states refused to comply, red and blue and every hue in between. “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico,” Mississippi’s secretary of state, Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, responded. What triggered the bipartisan backlash? A letter from the commission — whose ostensible goal is to restore Americans’ confidence in their elections — asked states to turn over by July 14 all publicly available information about their voters, including names, addresses, dates of birth, political party and voting history, criminal record, military status and the last four digits of their Social Security number.
Cybersecurity specialists are warning that President Donald Trump’s voter-fraud commission may unintentionally expose voter data to even more hacking and digital manipulation. Their concerns stem from a letter the commission sent to every state this week, asking for full voter rolls and vowing to make the information “available to the public.” The requested information includes full names, addresses, birth dates, political party and, most notably, the last four digits of Social Security numbers. The commission is also seeking data such as voter history, felony convictions and military service records. Digital security experts say the commission’s request would centralize and lay bare a valuable cache of information that cyber criminals could use for identity theft scams — or that foreign spies could leverage for disinformation schemes. “It is beyond stupid,” said Nicholas Weaver, a computer science professor at the University of California at Berkeley.
National: Forty-four states have refused to give certain voter information to fraud commission | CNN
Forty-one states have defied the Trump administration’s request for private voter information, according to a CNN inquiry to all 50 states. State leaders and voting boards across the country have responded to the letter with varying degrees of cooperation — from altogether rejecting the request to expressing eagerness to supply information that is public. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which President Donald Trump created by executive order in May, sent a letter to all 50 states last Wednesday requesting a bevy of voter data, which he notes will eventually be made available to the public.
Top officials in more than 10 states have announced they won’t turn over all voter roll data to President Trump’s commission on voter fraud. As of Friday afternoon, officials in New York, California, Massachusetts, Kentucky and Virginia had said they would not turn over any of their voter data to the voter fraud commission. Other officials in Connecticut, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Vermont, Utah, North Carolina, Indiana and Iowa said they would only turn over public information on voter rolls, but wouldn’t share private information. Wisconsin announced it would turn over public information but would charge the commission $12,500 to buy the voter roll data.
National: Who is Hans A. von Spakovsky of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity? | The Washington Post
President Trump on Thursday appointed a divisive conservative voting rights expert to spearhead the White House’s search into allegations of widespread fraud in the 2016 presidential election. The appointment of Hans von Spakovsky has reignited debate over the legitimacy of claims that include unsubstantiated accusations from Trump that “millions of people” voted illegally for Hillary Clinton. Von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department official, sparked legal battles over voting laws during the George W. Bush administration. Von Spakovsky, 58, will join the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, though it remains unclear what role he will take. The White House’s Thursday night announcement, which included several other administration posts, did not provide further details. The announcement did not include any biographical information about von Spakovsky, either.
House Republicans are taking aim at a small federal agency that helps provide election oversight and guidance, saying its functions are no longer necessary. A spending bill from the House Appropriations Committee unveiled Thursday would give the Election Assistance Commission 60 days to terminate itself. The small agency was created after the tightly contested 2000 presidential election. It has an annual budget of about $10 million and had just 31 employees on its rolls as of March. The agency writes election management guidelines and develops specifications for testing and certifying voting systems, among other tasks. … Democrats introduced an amendment at the markup to save the agency, arguing that its role was more important than ever given the attempts by the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 election. Republicans rejected that line of thinking, noting the Homeland Security Department, and not EAC, has jurisdiction over election-related cybersecurity issues.
Last Wednesday, Kris Kobach, the secretary of state of Kansas and the vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, wrote a letter to all 50 states, requesting that they send the commission the personal information of all registered voters. This includes full names, birth dates, addresses, political affiliations, voting history and last four digits of Social Security numbers. The letter says that all documents provided to the commission will be made public. What could possibly go wrong? There are obvious data privacy concerns. Digital security experts have called the plan a gold mine for hackers. Mr. Kobach’s letter says the data will be held on a “secure FTP site,” but offers no details. Mr. Kobach himself appears to be backtracking, recently saying that, notwithstanding his request to other states, he will not be giving Kansas voters’ Social Security information to his own commission.
When President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, sent a letter to every state in the country on Thursday requesting “publicly available voter roll data,” Delbert Hosemann, the Republican secretary of state from Mississippi, responded simply: “Go jump in the Gulf.” The letter that evoked Hosemann’s colorful retort was sent under the signature of the commission’s vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, one of only a few public figures to embrace the president’s unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud—the combating of which is the commission’s ostensible mission. In addition to all publicly available data on the states’ voter rolls, it also asked for data that are rarely considered to be public election records, such as information about felony convictions and the last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number. I’ve been studying America’s election administration since 2000, and I’ve rarely seen a firestorm like this. A few states have responded to Kobach’s letter with fiery opposition, such as California Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s statement that he refused to “legitimize” its work by contributing his state’s voter file. Others, like Hosemann, have used the request to remind Washington of the states’ pre-eminent role in running elections. But most states have approached the Kobach letter as a standard public records request, supplying the data they would supply anyone else who asked—sometimes for the required $12,500 fee, as in Wisconsin.
Kris Kobach just asked for help building a national voter file in two weeks. That’s massively irresponsible. And it might well be illegal. Yesterday, on behalf of a federal commission that seems slapped together to validate precooked but half-baked conclusions, Kris Kobach asked states to send him all publicly available information in the state voter files. First, let’s be clear about the scope of the behemoth he wants to assemble in the span of two weeks, with no public conversation. He’s aiming for a national file with hundreds of millions of records. It would include the name, address, political party affiliation (why is this relevant?), and voting history of virtually every voter in America. For some states, it would include at least some, and occasionally all, information about date of birth. For some states, it would include telephone numbers and email addresses. For some states, the voter rolls will include information about minors, who are not yet eligible to vote but are “pre-registered” so that they can vote without undue delay when they turn 18.
President Trump’s claim that 3 million to 5 million undocumented immigrants voted illegally in last fall’s elections is as evidence-based as the assertion that space aliens on Saturn are bombarding planet Earth with marshmallows. Nonetheless, Washington being Washington, Mr. Trump’s declaration has generated its own politically charged momentum in the form of a presidential commission to investigate voter fraud — a topic that has been endlessly investigated for years, with consistent results: There is no evidence that it is widespread or has materially affected the outcome of any U.S. election. Now Mr. Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is beginning its work under the guidance of its vice chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican notorious for his efforts at vote suppression.
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity offered its first public request this week, as Vice Chair and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach requested voter information from every state. That single request has likely done long-lasting damage to the political ability of the federal government to regulate elections. In particular, any chance that meaningful election security issues would be addressed at the federal level before 2020 worsened dramatically this week. The request is sloppy, as Charles Stewart carefully noted, and, at least in some cases, forbidden under state law. The letter was sent to the wrong administrators in some states, it requests data like “publicly-available . . . last four digits of social security number if available” (which should never be permissible), and it fails to follow the proper protocol in each state to request such data. Response from state officials has been swift and generally opposed. It has been bipartisan, ranging from politically-charged outrage, to drier statements about what state disclosure law permits and (more often) forbids. But the opposition reflects a major undercurrent from the states to the federal government: we run elections, not you.
Voting Blogs: What Will It Take for Americans to Understand the Basics of Election Integrity? | BradBlog
There are several basic election integrity truths that have escaped the attention of most Americans, even as they confront the scope of alleged Russian cyber intrusions into America’s disparately run, local elections systems. [Despite repeated assurances from U.S. officials that hackers didn’t go so far as to alter vote counts, Department of Homeland Security officials concede that they failed to run an audit in order to determine whether the 2016 vote count had been manipulated by anyone, be they hackers, foreign or domestic, from Russia or anywhere else, or by election insiders whose direct access could facilitate a malicious, or even accidental, manipulation of vote totals. The mainstream U.S. media has also raised concerns that the United States, under the Donald Trump administration, is not doing enough to prevent hacking or manipulation of the 2018 and 2020 elections.] The first basic election integrity truth is that, as The BRAD BLOG reported in 2009, following a stark presentation by a U.S. intelligence officer to the nation’s only federal agency devoted to overseeing the use of electronic voting and tabulation systems, all electronically stored and/or processed data — registration records, poll books, ballot definition scripts and, most importantly, computerized vote tabulators — are vulnerable to malicious cyber intrusions.
Florida: Push to restore Florida felon voting rights gains steam, but obstacles remain | Orlando Sentinel
Desmond Meade of Orlando has traveled from the Panhandle to Miami, all for the cause of restoring voting rights to 1.6 million non-violent ex-felons such as himself. But there is so much more to do. “I’ve put over 150,000 miles on my car,” said Meade, the head of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. “Whether it’s the rural parts of the state or the urban centers, the message is the same. … Second chances. That’s what it’s all about.” Meade, a former addict convicted on drug and firearm charges in 2001 who later earned a law degree, successfully gathered more than 70,000 verified signatures for his petition to place an amendment to the Florida constitution, which then triggered a review by the state Supreme Court. But despite the successful hearing, in which the court allowed the process to proceed, Meade and his group still have a momentous challenge ahead.
Georgia: Many Troubling, Unanswered Questions about Voting Machinery in Georgia House Runoff | Alternet
The results from Georgia’s sixth district congressional race are odd. Jon Ossoff, the Democratic newcomer who ran against Republican former Secretary of State Karen Handel, won the absentee vote 64% to 36%. That vote was conducted on paper ballots that were mailed in and scanned on optical scanners. Ossoff also won the early voting 51% to 49%. Those results closely mirror recent polls that had him ahead by 1-3 points. In the highest of those polls, he was ahead by 7% with 5% undecided and a 4% margin of error. On Election Day, Handel pulled out a whopping 16 percent lead, for a crushing 58% to 42% division of the day’s votes. That means that all 5% of the undecided voters broke for Handel, the poll was off by its farthest estimate and another 3.5% of Ossoff’s voters switched sides into her camp. All this despite Ossoff’s intensive door-to-door ground offensive that Garland Favorito, who lives in the heart of the sixth district called the “most massive operation” he’s ever seen. Favorito is the founder of VoterGA, a nonpartisan election reform group. He said Handel had signs up, but her canvassing operation didn’t approach Ossoff’s.
Indiana: Election official won’t turn over voter data despite being on Trump’s voter fraud panel | The Hill
Indiana’s secretary of state on Friday said her state won’t turn over requested voter roll data to President Trump’s commission on voter fraud, even though she is on the commission. Connie Lawson joined at least 13 states in declining to hand over at least some of the data requested by the Advisory Commission on Election…
Kansas: Kobach: Kansas won’t give Social Security info to Kobach-led voter commission at this time | The Kansas City Star
Multiple states plan to buck Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s request for personal information on voters on behalf of a presidential commission. Kobach said Friday that Kansas, at least for now, also won’t be sharing Social Security information with the commission, on which he serves as vice chairman. The state will share other information about the state’s registered voters, including names and addresses, which are subject to the state’s open records laws. Kobach sent letters on behalf of the commission to every state requesting names, addresses, voting history and other personal information, such as the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers, earlier this week.
Terri Bettinger paid close attention to the recent cyberattacks on the websites of Ohio government agencies, banks and other businesses. She hoped to learn lessons to better defend the information she oversees. Bettinger is the chief information officer for Franklin County and head of its Data Center, which collects, stores and protects government data from property tax bills to court and medical records. She knows the system will be hacked. “It’s when, not if. It’s going to happen,” Bettinger said. She saw Licking and Henry counties become recent victims of ransomware attacks, in which hackers stole information or locked their systems and demanded to be paid. Neither county paid the high-tech extortion, but both had some services hampered because their computer systems had to be restored.
Germany is a big target of spying and cyber attacks by foreign governments such as Turkey, Russia and China, a government report said on Tuesday, warning of “ticking time bombs” that could sabotage critical infrastructure. Industrial espionage costs German industry billions of euros each year, with small- and medium-sized businesses often the biggest losers, the BfV domestic intelligence agency said in its 339-page annual report. The report mapped out a range of security threats, including Islamist militancy and increased far-right violence, but highlighted the growing incidence of cyber espionage. It cited a “noticeable increase” in spying by Turkey’s MIT foreign intelligence agency in Germany in 2016, following the failed July 15 coup in Turkey, and said Russia was seeking to influence a parliamentary election on Sept. 24. “The consequences for our country range from weakened negotiating positions to high material costs and economic damage all the way to impairment of national sovereignty,” it said.
As recently as this spring, Shinzo Abe looked as if he was on track to become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, no small feat in a country where the leadership sometimes seems to be equipped with a revolving door. But a local election in Tokyo has put Mr. Abe’s longevity in doubt. Voters for the capital’s metropolitan assembly on Sunday resoundingly rejected candidates from Mr. Abe’s party, the Liberal Democrats, while electing all but one of 50 fielded by an upstart party founded by Tokyo’s popular governor, Yuriko Koike. The victory for Tomin First, the party Ms. Koike established in January, was widely seen as a referendum on Mr. Abe as much as a vote of confidence in Ms. Koike.
Papua New Guinea: Voting in Papua New Guinea marred by problems with electoral rolls, disruptions | Reuters
Polling in Papua New Guinea has been hampered by reports of disruptions and voters being left off the electoral roll, but the head of an international election observer group said on Sunday there was no evidence they were deliberate. The two-week long election to decide who will lead the resource-rich South Pacific nation began on June 24, pitting 3,332 candidates from 44 political parties against each other for a place in the 111-seat parliament. But reports of problems at voting booths and allegations of ballot fraud have soured the mood among some in a country which has a history of electoral violence and corruption.
Ukraine accused the Russian security services Saturday of planning and launching a cyberattack that locked up computers around the world earlier this week. The Ukrainian security agency, known as the SBU, alleged in a statement that similarities between the malicious software and previous attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure revealed the work of Russian intelligence services. The SBU added that the attackers appeared uninterested in making a profit from the ransomware program and were more focused on sowing chaos in Ukraine. There was no immediate official response from Russia’s government, but Russian lawmaker Igor Morozov told the RIA Novosti news agency that the Ukrainian charges were “fiction” and that the attacks were likely the work of the United States.